This is something that I have seen as a trend, and one that somewhat disturbs me. A person will call themselves a professional comic artist or writer in a post, and I’ll think “Cool, a possible learning experience and/or contact” only to find out that this is just a label the person has applied to themselves. It always sets me back on my heels, and raises the hair on the back of my neck.
A professional, by definition, is someone who has a profession. This means making a living doing it. Look it up, there is no other accepted definition. If you are not making a living at it, you are not a professional. Getting paid once does not make you a professional. I have been paid for both my writing and my art. I have had both published. That makes me published, it does not make me a professional. I am a professional Web Developer. I make my living doing it. I am not a professional comic creator, but I want to be. I am working towards that with every spare moment I have.
Now, there is another word. Professionalism. A person can show professionalism without being a professional. For that matter, in any profession, there are bound to be a number of professionals who do not show professionalism. It means behaving in a professional manner.
So why does this bother me? It’s not just dishonest (which always bothers me) but also causes part of the problems we are seeing within the webcomics/comics community.
People have developed the mistaken impression that they are worth a certain amount of money due to the time that they are putting into the enterprise. Often, this is figured off of minimum wage, or some other equally arbitrary number. This is a sense of entitlement that amazes and depresses me. At one point in time, I mentioned the things I did while paying my dues to become a published author. I was told that was the old way, and dues no longer had to be paid due to the internet.
So here’s the simple truth. If there is not a publisher paying you a living wage, or if you are not making a living off of your webcomic, or if your freelancing isn’t paying your bills, you are not a professional. You might have professional standards, treat people in a professional way, and display all of the professionalism of an exemplar of your chosen profession, but you are not a professional, and need to realise that. It’s about the money this time, and don’t bother arguing with me, argue with the dictionary, since that’s what I am going to refer to. Words mean things, and that one has a very specific meaning.
I am not a professional comic creator. YET. I will get there. Anyone attempting to do this for a living has to have a plan, and I am following mine. But I will not add that label to myself until I have earned it.
(Amateur status intact)